Roles of good enough mother: 1. Expose the child to risks (hygiene hypothesis); 2. Push the child away; 3. Mediate reality (organize and interpret it).
When is a mother a good (enough) mother? According to Winnicott, when she gradually and increasingly frustrates her child. These cumulative denials of the child's wishes and negations of his delusional and fantastic magical thinking are crucial to his emerging perception of an external world and his unimpaired reality test.
The good mother encourages the child's separation from her and its individuation via the formation of inviolable and respected personal boundaries. She does not sacrifice her autonomy and identity and does not fuse or merge with her child or treat it as her extension.
The good mother acknowledges her own moments of exasperation and depression. She does neither idealize nor devalue herself or the child. She harbors realistic expectations of the budding relationship and reacts proportionately. She has no mood swings and is not labile. She is stable, firm but not harsh, just and predictable but never dull. She encourages her offspring's curiosity even as she indulges her own.
The narcissistic mother is a control freak and does not easily relinquish good and reliable sources of "narcissistic supply" (admiration, adulation, attention of any kind). It is the role of her children to replenish this supply, the children owe it to her. To make sure that the child does not develop boundaries, and does not become independent, or autonomous, the narcissistic parent micromanages the child's life and encourages dependent and infantile behaviors in her offspring.
Such a parent bribes the child (by offering free lodging or financial support or "help" with daily tasks) or emotionally blackmails the child (by constantly demanding help and imposing chores, claiming to be ill or disabled) or even threatens the child (for instance: to disinherit her if she does not comply with the parent's wishes).
The narcissistic mother also does her best to scare away anyone who may upset this symbiotic relationship or otherwise threaten the delicate, unspoken contract. She sabotages any budding relationship her child develops with lies, deceit, and scorn.
To ameliorate the unease bred by this emotional ambivalence, the narcissistic parent resorts to a myriad of control mechanisms. These can be grouped into: guilt-driven ("I sacrificed my life for you"), codependent ("I need you, I cannot cope without you"), goal-driven ("We have a common goal which we can and must achieve"), shared psychosis or emotional incest ("You and I are united against the whole world, or at least against your monstrous, no-good father ...", "You are my one and only true love and passion") and explicit ("If you do not adhere to my principles, beliefs, ideology, religion, values, if you do not obey my instructions, I will punish you").
As Lidija Rangelovska observed, the narcissistic parent often regards himself or herself as a martyr and uses her/his alleged “suffering” as a currency, a mode of communication, an explanatory and organizing principle, which endows the lives of the parent and of his nearest and dearest with meaning, direction, message, and mission. Being introduced into the narcissist’s drama is a privilege, an honor, an initiation, and the true hallmark of intimacy.
The guilt trip induced by the narcissistic parent is not time-limited because it is not linked to a specific action of the “perpetrator”; it is intended to elicit never-ending “compensation”; and is not designed to bring on a restoration of the relationship, or a rehabilitation of the “offender.” It is a tool of control and an instrument of manipulation: the “culprit” is meant to feel guilty for merely existing and for as long as s/he exists.
This exercise of control helps to sustain the illusion that the child is a part of the narcissist. But maintaining the illusion calls for extraordinary levels of control (on the part of the parent) and obedience (on the part of the child). The relationship is typically symbiotic and emotionally turbulent.
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